Seeking information regarding the constitution of the Group of Ministers under RTI Act
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Department of Personnel & Training and Cabinet Secretariat seeking details about the venue, date of meeting and the minutes of the meeting etc. about the Group of Ministers. The Central Information Commission heard the case and directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) in order dated 15 October 2012, to explain why the RTI application was transferred late.
The PIO submitted that the details sought by the appellant were secret and could not have been disclosed without the approval of the competent authority. He explained that the process of seeking approval of the competent authority itself took some time and only after due permission was granted only then the available details about the constitution of the Group of Ministers could be provided to the appellant. The PIO stated that further details about the venue, date of meeting and the minutes of the meeting etc were not available in the Cabinet Secretariat and should be sought only from the Ministries/ Departments which serviced the Groups of Ministers and hence other than the information relating to the constitution of the Group of Ministers, the Cabinet Secretariat could not have made available the other details as sought by the appellant. The appellant submitted that about the initial delay of nearly one year in deciding about the desirability of disclosing details about the Group of Ministers.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) observed that the time taken for deciding on whether various details about the Group of Ministers should be disclosed in the public domain or not was inordinately long. The conventional marking of government records as secret or confidential cannot be ground for withholding that information if it is not otherwise covered under any of the exemption provisions. The CIC noted that the appellant has already got some information regarding the constitution of the Group of Ministers though very late. Regarding the other details the CIC held that the PIO could not be expected to collect such information from several dozen government ministries and departments which might have serviced these Groups of Ministers over the entire period for which the information has been sought. The Commission also stated that the appellant has the entire list of Groups of Ministers for this period he can approach any individual Ministry/ Department for further details.
Citation: Mr. Kishanlal Mittal v. Department of Personnel & Training and Cabinet Secretariat in File No.CIC/SM/A/2012/000072
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/797
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission